The rocks of Dangkalan Beach, Sorsogon, with the famous Mt Bulusan in the background. - Photo courtesy of ~O-p-t-1-m-u-s
By SHIENA M BARRAMEDA
GUBAT, Sorsogon: Surfer Noli John Mercader picked his way slowly through the coral reef hugging the shores of Dangkalan Beach in this coastal town in order to avoid crushing any of the delicate corals.
The coral reef, spanning more or less 250-300ha according to local officials, is already in danger of further damage due to climate change and human activities of residents from three barangays surrounding it.
Mercader, who is also the president of Gubat Bay Surfers, is among the local residents and professionals who are attempting to rally Sorsogon constituents and local government units to take action against the slow destruction of Gubat’s natural resources and to turn it into the next tourism star in Sorsogon.
Surfers and local professionals alike banded together to lobby the LGU for the preservation of natural resources in Gubat town in order to make it attractive to more visitors and boost the local tourism industry for the benefit of the people of Sorsogon, Mercader said.
Gubatnon, Inc. and Gubat Bay Surfers are working together to push local leaders to create a climate change mitigation plan in order to save Gubat’s natural attractions and make it ready to be added among the wonders of the province.
Other than surfing
Dangkalan Beach and the dry mangrove forest adjacent to it have managed to withstand years of climate change that caused the waterline to recede, killing corals in the process, Mercader said.
Locals also remember that the beach used to have fine white sands almost akin to Subic (now being introduced as Malarosa Beach because of its pinkish white sands) in Matnog, Sorsogon.
Now, the sand in Dangkalan looks like ordinary sand found in any beach.
Nevertheless, Jomar Enguerra, president of Gubatnon, Inc., said they believe the place would be worthy of being developed into a tourist spot because it is easy to access and has the potential of becoming a diving zone.
He said that they are striving to introduce Gubat through social media networks as a potential eco-tourism spot and adventure place even as they stepped up to promote surfing here.
Mercader pointed out that the place is a perfect getaway for tourists who seek a complete adventure experience because the coral reefs are also adjacent to surfing spots that make Gubat the surfing capital of Sorsogon.
Apparently, only locals like Mercader and his group provide surfing lessons for very minimal pay, acting also as tour guides despite their not having earned certificates of competency and advanced training.
“We want to show the world that there is more to Gubat than just surfing and big waves,” Enguerra said. “We have a lot of natural resources that no other place in Bicol has.”
Aiza Encinares, town councilor and head of the Gubat Tourism Council, said that they are already coordinating with the local Department of Tourism (DOT) and Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in identifying places that may interest tourists.
She said that aside from providing support to surfers who may teach and guide tourists, the council is also looking at the possibility of opening four caves in Barangays Togawe, Bagacay, and Paco for spelunking.
So far, the results of the visits they conducted with representatives from DENR and DOT before the May elections are yet to be released.
She said that the local government of Gubat, now under Mayor Nonong Co, has not yet formulated a climate change mitigation plan and a competent tourism officer has yet to be appointed.
“Gubat could be the answer in case the prediction by local officials in Donsol would prove to be true that the presence of whale sharks would significantly decline in summer next year,” the mayor said.
Sorsogon second district Congressman Deogracias Ramos, Jr. has boasted that Gubat has more tourism potentials than Albay.
He said that this is because the town has more natural gems and there are more activities to do than in Albay.
He, however, said that he doubts that the Dangkalan Beach would be tourist-ready because locals have not taken seriously the conservation of the environment during the past years.
Mercader’s group often receives tourists who are referred to them by travel agencies.
They receive groups even as small as two persons to as many as 60 visitors.
Despite the unsteady stream of visitors, Mercader and his group hope that the pleasant experiences the visitors had with Gubat would spread by word of mouth and thus bring in more visitors in the future.
Traditionally, peak season is October when the waves are high and more people want to surf the seas.
Presently, Mercader and Enguerra are also coordinating with DOT in order to give them additional trainings on tourism and competency certificates to ensure the safety of future visitors of Gubat.
“One of our main objectives is to raise awareness among Gubatnons themselves, especially those who are already professionals. We need their support to augment our membership and also to have facilities that we could use here,” Enguerra said. – Bicol Mail